Montana telehone snafu (problem unknown) : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Technicians still ponder phone snafu By JAMES HAGENGRUBER Of The Gazette Staff

Technicians still don't know what caused the computer glitch that knocked out long distance phone service for the past two days to thousands of people living in Big Timber, Melville, Reed Point, Rapelje, Molt and Broadview.

PROBLEMS? Triangle Telephone Cooperative subscribers still experiencing problems are asked to call 1-800-332-1201

Rick Stevens, the assistant general manager of Triangle Telephone Cooperative, said the "switching technicians nightmare," started at about midnight Tuesday at the cooperative's Big Timber office. Computers in this office pump all the customer's long distance calls to Billings, where they are sent out "to the rest of the world" by US West, Stevens said.

These computers crashed - they lost all their stored information and could no longer process calls. As with most businesses, Triangle Telephone has a back-up system. They stored their data on magnetic tapes. But software for the backup system also failed, Stevens said.

"We really don't know what happened," Stevens said. "That's our worst problem. We honestly don't know exactly what happened."

To complicate matters even further, the telephone switching software was telling technicians that there were no problems.

For about three hours early Wednesday, Big Timber had no phone service at all - not even 911 calls could be placed. In other communities, only outgoing long distance calls were blocked.

Many Triangle Telephone Cooperative subscribers were not affected, Stevens said. The Havre-based cooperative provides service to about 18,000 phone lines in a 16,000 square-mile area of central and northern Montana, Stevens said.

Technicians are working around the clock to restore service to the subscribers unable to make long distance calls, Stevens said. Most phone services have now been restored. But no one has been able to find the root of the problem, he said.

"That's what we want to find out," Stevens said. "Was it software? Hardware? The tape drive? ... Once we get this thing back under control we will be working with our software (provider) because this can't happen again."

Stevens tried to explain the repair work by comparing it to a personal computer losing all of its stored data and software programs. All the software and thousands of files have to be manually restored to the computer.

"We understand that in this society, people like things done fast," Stevens said. "When you're working with something as detailed as a telephone switch, it's not a fast process. ... With a failure of this size, it's just going to take time."

Although Stevens said most of the long distance services have been restored, certain account features, such as call waiting, are still being repaired.

"We're probably going to be experiencing some problems for the next few days," Stevens said. "If people are experiencing some troubles, don't think we automatically know about it. Let us know."

See also

-- Martin Thompson (, February 04, 2000



I called the Triangle Telephone Cooperative (; 1-800-332-1201) and spoke with Rick Stevens. He said this problem was not y2k related. It was a combination of errors starting with a bad tape drive and software that did not detect the bad drive and went on to tell them their backups were complete (when they weren't).

Then, on Tuesday Feb 1st, they lost the memory and system within the the telephone switch. When this happens they usual reload the system and memory from tapes, but in this case they had bad tapes all the way back to February 1999. He said it was a nightmare.

-- Philip Bogdonoff (, February 08, 2000.

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